Friday, 6 January 2017

The Three Lives of Lady Bluebeard

I was born into a village where people are sometimes seen with wings. These wings or wing-like “things” that we have sprouting from our shoulder blades are unique. No one has the exact shade of colour or shape as anyone else. Not everyone could see these wings, because of this they are called tamno, which is “talents” in our people’s tongue. Each person’s talent is different. For instance, my talent, from what I could see, has the colours of pigeon’s wings. No one else could touch them except me. I could pluck feathers from my own wings and, if I was at a loom, pass each feather through the loom like a shuttle, weaving cloths of various colours, patterns, and designs.
My brother, Toki, tells me his are like dragonfly wings with thread-like mesh. When he is working at his workshop making blueprints for furniture, his talents “unravel”; each “strand” then of his talent laid itself out on the parchment as he wills it. He then takes his writing materials and traces the designs he sees on the parchment. Once he is done, the strands retreat back to their places returning to their wing form.
My sister, Ling, is mute, but has the talent for music. When she plays the flute or the fiddle, she tunes herself to the music her talent brings out.
In our village, we try to help each other out to the extent of our abilities and talents. It is our right to use our talents as we wish, but it is our responsibility to use it for our Patron.
Patron is a tall gentleman of unusual royalty. We call him “Patron” in our dialect because he gave us our talents and supports us, encouraging us to use it in a way that he instructs us to.

            This is my story told in three parts. I call them lives, because parts of me have either been lost or dead in the process. My name is Mitsuru and here is my story.


            My story begins with a grim prophecy that my mother told me when I was eight years old: that I would undergo much hardship. Years later when I recalled the prophecy, I asked her what that meant. She would tell me she had no recollection of telling me such a depressing thing – and so it was forgotten.
            When I turned 20, I met a merchant who came to our village to trade with us. He was tall man, with rugged good looks. His hair was black and he had a beard that appeared blue in the light. We all called him “Bluebeard” for that was what his name was.
            One day, Bluebeard approached me asking for my hand in marriage. Without discussing the matter with my family I immediately agreed, for I yearned to leave the village and see the outside world, and for the money (for my family owed a debt to a neighbouring lord that was passed down from my grandfather).
            The first person I told, however, was Ling. Ling was mortified. She communicated to me in writing and pictures that Bluebeard was not the sort of man to marry.
            “But I already agreed. I have even made a promise to wed to him by my next birthday. Besides, he is a rich man. Grandfather’s debts could even be cancelled.”
            Still she would not agree.
            I told Bluebeard that it was customary for the groom-to-be to meet with the family of his fiancée. A week after we engaged, he came to our home for supper and announced our engagement.
            “I will take good care of your daughter.” Bluebeard promised. “I will even cancel the family debt. You may even come to my home in Atlantia. It is only a two day’s journey from Erdeenah.” Erdeenah was the kingdom we lived in. Our village was near the border dividing Erdeenah from Atlantia.
            Even then, my parents refused.
            That night, I snuck out of the house and waited for Bluebeard at his wagon. There we met, left for Alantia and eloped.
            During our first few months together, everything was wonderful. In fact it was so wonderful that it was too good to be true. His home was a mansion filled with every luxury that a girl could dream of. Every room was decorated with fresh flowers; furnished with beautifully carved wooden furniture; porcelain, silver and crystal graced our tables at every meal; wardrobe filled with garments made of every silk, satin, linen, and lace that a man could find; a stable of the finest breed of horses; and servants at our beck and call. Truly it was heavenly. Yet as days pass, I felt unease. I could sense that something was not right, but I did not know what it was.
            Feeling the need of something to do, I asked my husband if he would allow me the task of making cloth, for I saw on my way to our mansion that there were poorer neighbours nearby who could not afford clothing.
            “We could cloth them with garments made of my cloth. It would keep them from the cold of winter and the harsh sun of summer.” I mentioned.
            My husband looked at me strangely, “Why would you go through such measures for those strangers.”
            “In my village it is expected that we help those in need by sharing with others what we have. This will be solely something I will provide from my hand and it won’t cost you anything.” I argued.
            My husband slammed his fist on his desk and stood up. With one look he silenced me. I was so shocked. He had never given me such a look before. Yet, I felt that I have given my request at unreasonable timing that I decided not to mention it for some time.
            The next day, my husband returned from his day of trade and called me to him.
            “I have a surprise for you.” He led me to a room in the west wing. There in a nicely furnished room, sat a loom made of bright yellow wood.
            “It is yours for your weaving. I have had the servants arrange this place for you as your workshop. You may weave to your hearts content.”
            I threw my arms around him filled with joy.
            “However, I have a request on my end. I would like you to give me your cloth so I could have them tailored into garments. And be sure to show me every piece of cloth you have woven.”
            At this I agreed.
Since that day I wove cloths of every pattern, colour, and texture with my wings. Sometimes I would combine linen and weave some wool in to make warmer materials. There were times when I even went into the garden and took some herbs, wildflowers, or grasses to weave into the material to give it a unique fragrance and texture. When the cloth is done, I would take them to Bluebeard. He would examine them and compliment me in my skills and technique. He then would give the bolts of cloth I have woven to his private servants, who would send them to his private tailors.
One day I wandered too far from the land of our mansion and saw the people who lived in shacks. These were the same people whom I have seen on my way to the mansion who had only rags and no shoes. I noticed that they were still wearing their rags, and wondered why they were not clothes with the garments that Bluebeard promised.
That night I spoke to Bluebeard over supper, asking him what had happed to the bolts of materials I have given him.
“They are still at the tailors being made,” he explained. “You need not to worry, everything is taken care of.”
“But I saw those people are still wearing rags. Why is that?” I asked.
“Are you accusing me of stealing you cloth?” he asked, his tone dropping a few degrees.
“N-no,” I answered nervously. “You promised that those people would be clothed. I gave you materials for the past three weeks. Why is it that they are still not clothed?”
“These things take time, Mitsy,” he said, calling my by my pet name. “The tailors are doing the best they can. They want to make as many garments for those people so they won’t have to worry for days to come. Be patient.”
With that I did not question any further.

Three months pass as my husband underwent some subtle – no, sudden, changes. He was not as tender as he once was. He became a bit rough.
There was that one time when I decided to help the servants around the mansion by cleaning the house. As I dusted his study, I found a ring of keys on his desk. I just lifted them from their place to dust the area of his desk, and placed the keys back exactly as I found them. That evening, he came to us, the servants and I, and roared furiously who touched his things. He was about to strike a servant, when I intervened explaining to him that I only moved his keys to tidy his desk. Everything was as they were found.
He warned us all never to touch his things again and fired the accused servant. That same night, I had trouble sleeping for I began to fear my husband.

Ñ               Ñ               Ñ               Ñ               Ñ

Six months passed since our elopement. Missing my family, I sent a letter to my sister and brother about my whereabouts and my new life. I wrote to them saying that I would really wish to see them and asked them to visit me. A reply came saying the entire family would come.
I was a bit nervous, for it had been months since we have communicated.
I have forgotten to mention that Bluebeard gave me two things under my custody on the day after our wedding. One of them was a tiny pewter key, which I wore around my neck on a silver chain. The other was a black lacquered comb. He told me that both of these belonged to his mother. The key he told me opens a certain door in the mansion, which was never to be opened.
I rose up early the morning I planned to announce my family’s visit. With Bluebeard’s comb in my hair and his key around my neck, I wore my favourite dress and met him in the dining room.
“I was wondering, my lord,” I inquired, “If it is well with you that I have my family over while you are on your trip. I will keep the place in order as you wish it,” I promised.
Bluebeard looked up from a book he was reading. “That would be good for you, my sweet.” He smiled. “Do invite them over. Though regretfully I will not be here to greet them, I trust that everything will be as I requested in my absence.”
“Of course,” I said with a bow.
“You look very lovely, my pet.” He complimented, “That black comb brings out the chocolate highlights of your hair.”
“Thank-you, my lord,” I said with a smile.

The next day, after my husband left for his merchant trip, I stayed home and met my family as planned. My brother and sister were happy to see me, but I sensed a rift had developed between us.
“Mother could not leave with us, but sends her love and greetings to you.” Toki told me.
I nodded. I did not have the courage to face Mother yet, for I have married Blue Bear against my family’s wishes.
I gave my brother and sister a tour of the place, introducing them to the servants and showing them to the rooms they would be staying.
“So, are you happy, dear sister?” Toki asked.
“Yes, of course!” I laughed, perhaps a bit nervously. Was I trying to hide something?
Ling only watched with a distant look on her face. She was not her communicative self that day.
“Are you tired from your trip, Ling?” I asked.
She blankly nodded.
“Well, I could use some rest myself.” Toki announced. “How about a nap until supper?”
Ling nodded again – a single nod this time.
“Well, that settles it then.” And so I let my brother and sister rest as I sent a request for the meal to be prepared.
An hour later, Toki and Ling sat at the grand dining room with me over a wonderful meal our cook had prepared for us.
Ling signed to me asking where Bluebeard was.
“He’s on one of his merchant trips.” I explained.
Ling signed some more swiftly, mentioning about Bluebeard’s business – something about ruining other people’s businesses in order to succeed his.
I was shocked. “How dare you say that about my husband!”
Ling signed some more saying that there were rumours of his former marriages and mistresses that were from well-respected prosperous families that drifted to their village. She explained that there was even a story about a talented young woman who was married to Bluebeard only to be never to be heard again.
I was furious. “My husband is not the sort of man you think! He is – kind and gentle! He would never do anything that would be of such scandal!” Yet, somewhere at the back of my mind a flicker of an image of his violent rage came and went.
My sister snorted. Ling was rather blunt and harsh when it came to bringing her point across, but I knew she was not a liar.
“Now, now, Mitsy. Let’s just forget about that for now and enjoy our meal. Ling apologize to Mitsy.” Toki suggested.
Ling immediately stood with a swift sign of “excuse me” she left the table.
What followed after my sister’s sudden retirement to bed were gentle words from my brother, telling me not to be bothered by my sister’s comments.
Despite the shaky start, the rest of the visit went pleasantly. We made some meals together. The servants enjoyed the presence of my brother and sister. They complimented me that I was lucky to have such family members.
Once we had tea in the garden. The garden was large and beautifully kept. As we strolled amongst the roses, Ling pointed to the key around my neck.
“Oh, this?” I held it up for her to see. “I was told that it belonged to Bluebeard’s mother. I was told that it opens a particular door in this mansion, but I don’t know where that is. ”
After that it began to pour, and the matter with the key was forgotten.

The day finally came when my brother and sister would leave. I bid them a safe journey and returned to my role as mistress of the mansion. It was then my curiosity piqued me. What door does my key open?
Part of me warned it was better not to get involved in affairs that were not my own. However, curiosity won in the end. I decided to start with the main entrance to the mansion, then worked my way around the place and outwards to the edge of the property.
Though the key was made strong, it was too small for most of the doors. I tried our bedroom, the guest rooms, even the hall closet and wardrobes. Then I came to a cellar located beneath the western wing. The cellar door was old, with rusted hinges and iron bolts. It was hidden from view, behind an old tapestry. I asked myself if I really wanted to do this. With the key clutched in my hand, I put it into the lock. The key entered and turned with a click fitting the keyhole perfectly. I opened the door and screamed.
The room was dark heavily draped with old velvet curtains that forgot their original colour. At the back of the room staring back at me was an old skeletal looking thing, dressed in a black moth eaten dress. In her hand, for it was a woman, was a portrait of a man that looked much like my husband. On the corpse’s shoulders draped a shawl made of the cloth I had woven. But what mortified me more were the urns displayed beside that female corpse. Each urn had a name and a portrait of a woman on it. Each woman was different, but I knew that they were the missing women that Ling had told me about.
I ran, horrified by what I saw, out through the back entrance, all the way to the edge of our property. My throat was sore by then from all the screaming, but I knew. I knew that I had been married to a monster all this time and refused to admit it. I found myself weeping for those women in that awful room, for me who brought my own misfortune; all because I refused to listen the advice of my loved ones. I wept and wept and wept – until I could weep no more. Then I sensed someone there. I looked up and gasped. It was Patron.
            “Mitsy,” Patron reached out towards me.
            “Don’t touch me!” I wept. “Oh, please don’t touch me, Patron.”
            But he knelt down beside me and held me. I wept some more.
            “Toki and Ling sent me for you,” he explained.
            “I can’t!” I sobbed. “I can’t go back home. Not like this. I’m soiled. I – I am bound to that monster. We swore an oath that we will be together until death. Even if I were able to leave, he would find me and – and kill me.”
            Patron looked at me. “Show me what it is you are talking about.”
            I looked up.
            “I have seen you run from that mansion screaming. I am here with you. Show me what it was that you saw.”
            I shook my head. “I can’t do that. I’m sorry, but that I cannot.”
            “What are you afraid of? I will protect you.” He looked at me with those fathering eyes.
            I gave in, but my hands still shook. “Very well, but it’s definitely not pretty.” I warned him.
            It felt like a long way as I lead him back to the mansion. I led him through the back entrance and to the cellar door. Fortunately, it appeared no one else had discovered it yet.
            I kept my back turned and pointed to the room.
            Patron looked at me, his eyes filled with tears.
            “Oh, Mitsy,” he said sadly.
            “I know. I’m terribly sorry that this had come to this for me.” I heard myself say. “I should have listened to Ling and everyone else. I should have realized –” I broke down crying again.
            Patron put his arms around me and wept with me. When we finished weeping, I finally found the strength to close the door and locked it.
            “You cannot stay here, child,” he told me. “You must leave.”
            Patron nodded.
            I glanced at the door, now hidden by the tapestry. “I don’t know where to go, Patron. My family won’t want me. I lost contact with my friends. I – I can’t –” Tears began to fill my eyes once again. “I can’t let them see me like this. I have changed. I know I have. I know I am not the Mitsy I once was.”
            He wiped my tears and told me, “Listen, no matter what happens, you are still the Mitsy that I knew and have given the talent for weaving.”
            “Where can I go?” I asked quietly.
            “When will Bluebeard return?”
            “Not for another two months.”
            “This is what you will do. Leave this mansion. Tell the servants that you are going to visit a friend. There is an elderly woman and her son who lives near the border. Stay with them, until Bluebeard returns. I will arrange help by then.” Patron explained.
            And so, it was arranged. I left the mansion as instructed and went to stay with the elderly woman and her son.


            For two months I stayed with the elderly woman and her son. The old woman was Lita; her son Iain was a shepherd. The life that their home was peaceful, I enjoyed the quiet life they shared with me. Lita had a spinning wheel, which she taught me to use. With the spinning, she taught me how to knit, sew and mend clothing. Sometimes I would miss weaving. Although I have seen Lita weave with the wool they harvested to make cloaks, I still could not make myself to weave again for I could not help remembering that horrible room located beneath my private room. Just standing at the loom brought back memories of my connections with Bluebeard.
            One day in thanks for their kindness, I finally decided to weave once more. I borrowed Lita’s loom and made a few attempts to make my cloth. At first it was painful for I could not weave as before. Finally, after practicing with wool, I decided to make the best bolts of silk and satin for them so that they would not be in need for winter. I unfurled my wings and plucked my feathers weaving them into the material for this was going to be my masterpiece. I wove every night until dawn. By the time I finished, I made one bolt of the finest silk and another of satin that even Bluebeard would covet. I nervously looked at myself in the mirror that morning and saw that very few of my feathers remained on my wings. I knew that my time was fast approaching.
            I gave Lita and Iain the bolts of cloth, telling them to sell it to the most respected merchants in the city. They did as they were told. While they were away, I wove one last bolt for them before they returned with my feathers. Just as I wove the last of my feathers into the cloth, I heard the door open. They have returned sooner than expected.
            “So that was how you wove those cloths.” Iain said in wonder for I have not told them of my talents.
            I immediately folded my wings and removed the finished bolt from the loom. “Here is the finest linen I could offer. I must now go for I cannot stay here longer.”
            As I packed my things Lita approached me and gave me a tortoise shell comb. “Thank you for all that you have done, my dear.” She then added, “Would you not consider staying here any longer?”
            I shook my head. “I will be expected home,” I told her. The word “home” tasted dry in my mouth.
            “Take care,” Iain said as he helped me onto a horse-drawn cart that would take me back.
            I told the driver where the mansion was. The horse began to pull the cart as I waved good-bye.

            Back at the mansion, I entered the place with a laden heart. As I passed the mirror in the hall I remembered that something was missing. I stopped. Immediately I went back to the mirror to see what it was. I felt the colour drain from my face. I did not have the lacquered comb or the key with me. I panicked. Where did I lose them? I tried to remember. Then it came to me. The last time I had those with me were when I was at the cellar door.
            I dreaded going back to that place, but I knew that if Bluebeard discovered that I did not have those things with me he would surely kill me. Not wishing my fate to be as those women in that cellar, I ran back to that wing. I stopped in front of the tapestry that covered the door. I prayed that the key would be in the keyhole. I reached over, distancing my body away from the door as I moved the tapestry. Thankfully the door was still closed with the key in the lock and the chain hanging from it. Just beneath the door I saw the lacquered comb, its fine long teeth just caught between the door and the floor. I quickly yanked the comb from the floor door and ran away from that room as fast as I could. I ran into our bedchamber and leaned against the door.
After calming myself for a moment, I looked down at my hands. I felt the floor beneath me give away, for in my hand was the broken chain and the comb with a couple teeth missing. I must have broken the teeth when I yanked the comb from under the door and snapped the chain when I ran from the room. I wanted to cry for I knew that my doom was in evitable.
“Oh, Patron, please help me!” I prayed, hoping that his help would arrive soon.
            That night I could not sleep a wink for I paced around our chamber for hours wringing my hands in agony. Though I was able to fix the chain it still had a section of it missing making it noticeably shorter. I wore it under my dress in hope that Bluebeard would not notice. But the greatest damage of all was the broken comb. The first three teeth were noticeably snapped off and were beyond repair. I had no choice, but hid it from my presence for I could not bear to see it.
            I heard the horses bring the carriage bearing their master home. I decided that I would try to buy as much time as I can, hoping that my help would come soon.
            “Where is my lovely wife?” Bluebeard called.
            I swallowed. I checked myself in the mirror before I made my way to see him.
            “Hello there, pet!” he held out his arms to me for an embrace.
            I smiled and embraced him, praying that he would not notice a change in me.
            “Did you miss me?’ he asked.
            “Of course!” I forced myself to say.
            “How did you fare in my absence?”
            “I kept myself busy.” I told him.
            “That is good to hear.” Then I heard the words I dreaded, “I hope you still have that key I put under your custody.”
            I swallowed. “Yes, yes, I do.” I held up the key to for his inspection.
            “Why is the chain shorter?” he asked.
            “Well, I – I accidentally got it caught and I snapped it. You know how long it was. I did repair it.”
            His eyes narrowed and travelled to my hair. “That is a new comb you have there. Where is the one I gave you?”
            I froze. “I – ” I could not speak.
            “Where is my mother’s comb?” he demanded darkly.
            “I have it. It – ”
            “If so, why do you not wear it? Let me see it.”
            I nervously went to the guestroom and lifted the rug, to my hiding place. From there I retrieved the comb and brought it to my husband, handle first.
            Bluebeard grabbed the comb. Seeing its missing teeth, his face filled with fury and hate. He gripped my wrist and held the broken comb to my face.
            “How did this happen?”
            I felt myself shaking once again.
            “How did this happen!” he roared, gripping my shoulders shaking me.
            “Please don’t hurt me!” I begged.
            “So, you have seen that room have you?” He threw the comb on the floor. I tried to wrestle from his grasp, but he was too strong.
            “Help! Somebody help!” I cried out.
            “They can’t hear you! Those servants cannot hear for I have given them leave for the town festival.”
            I bit his hand and broke away from him. I blindly made my way through the mansion, its halls twisting like a maze. I felt the heat coming from his hands as he reached towards me. I saw a door, praying that it was a way out I opened it. Only to my dismay, the door led to the rooftop.
            “Where are you, wife?” I heard him say.
            I ran from one end of the rooftop to the other, over looking the edge, hoping to see if Patron had sent his rescue as promised.
            “You cannot get away.” I turned and saw Bluebeard with a long knife in his hand.
            I ran away from him, trying to keep a distance. But his size and height seemed to overpower me.
            Suddenly something flew into the air and landed on Bluebeard’s head with smack. He turned furiously.
            “Run, Mitsy! Run!” I heard Iain’s voice say.
            I made a dash for the door. The knife landed deeply, waving on the doorframe, narrowly missing my head.
            I grabbed the knife and held it with both hands in front of me.
            “You think you are good with that?” he lunged at me.
            I ran to the edge and threw the knife far out of his reach.
            “You!” I heard him say as his big hands circled my throat. I felt myself lifted up, or was it because I could not breath.
            “Mitsy!” I heard another voice say.
            A horrible cry, then I felt myself fall caught by a pair of strong arms.
            “Mitsy!” I heard Toki’s voice. Dazed, I coughed and saw Toki cradling my head, while Patron stood over Bluebeard with a bloodied rapier. I heard more footsteps and saw Iain with his leather sling followed by some servants who came back to see what had happened to their master and mistress.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

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Monday, 21 March 2016

Happiness (A retelling of Maurice Maeterlinck's “The Blue Bird”) - Chapter 18, 19 and 20 (Final segment)

Chapter 18 – The Kingdom of the Future

“This is a strange place,” Tristan said as they peered at their surroundings, “It feels like we are in an ocean or in the sky.”
Transported by Lucien’s ability, Tristan, Michelle and Lucien arrived in the Kingdom of the Future.
“It’s a shame we had to leave Tylo and Tylette behind,” Michelle said.
“At least they’ll be safe,” her brother assured her, referring that they have left the cat and dog with the Blessings and the Loves.
“Are we here to find the blue bird?” Michelle asked their guide.
“I wanted to show you something,” Lucien told them and led them through the place.
The Kingdom of the Future was a large city all of blue: buildings, walls, skies, ground – even the children they saw there!
“Who are they?” Michelle asked.
“What are they?” Tristan rephrased.
“They are the children of the future.” Lucien explained.
“Hello there!” A little blue boy approached them with rolls of paper under his arm. “You must be strangers. Welcome to the Kingdom of the Future!”
“Uh, thanks!” Tristan said and then asked nodding at the paper, “What’s that you have there?”
“Oh, this?” the boy held up the paper and unrolled it before them revealing the blueprint of a building. “I am going to be an architect and build the most unique cathedral in the world!”
“Wow! I have never seen such a picture,” Michelle commented.
“We call this a blueprint. It’s basically a map for making buildings,” the little boy explained. “That little girl over there,” he nodded towards a girl with a stand containing a number of slender glass tubes, “She is going to find a unique element that will help sick people around the world.”
“That one over there,” the boy showed them another boy in a lab coat playing with a glass covered dish and some eyedroppers. “He is going to find a cure for an illness and give it to the world without a cost. And that little girl over there,” showing them a girl sitting on a bench swinging her legs. “She is going to sit on a bus and make a difference on how people think about each other.”
“What’s a bus?” Tristan asked.
Their little guide showed them more about things of the future: carts that moved without the power of horses or cattle; fruits and vegetables of various shapes, sizes and colours; clothing made of materials yet to be discovered; lanterns that were lit without candles or oil; and many more.
“Wow! I didn’t think any of those would be possible!” Tristan exclaimed.
“Yup! That’s what we are: future builders, inventors, teachers, leaders, and visionaries!” said the boy excitedly, but suddenly his face clouded with sadness, “Unfortunately, not everyone will live long enough to see the fruit of their talents and labours.”
“Why do you say that?” Michelle asked.
“Many of us will die at a young age. Some of us will die even before we are born,” the little boy explained.
“Tristan! Michelle!” called a voice, the two of them looked to see a bunch of children approach them.
“Who are you all?” Michelle asked.
“We are your children!” they all said.
“Ch-children?!” Tristan exclaimed.
“But we’re not even married! Neither of us are!” she pointed out.
“Don’t worry, you will both get married and later have children,” said a little girl who looked like a smaller version of Michelle.
“All aboard for those who are leaving for the next ship!” called a deep resounding voice.
“That’s us!” someone shouted.
“To the future! Here we come!” The children whooped and shouted as they brought their things with them and walked up a ramp to get on board a giant sailing ship. At the foot of the ramp was a man with long hair and a very long beard, in his right hand he held a scythe, in his left he held up a large hour glass with its blue glittery sand trickling through its narrow centre.
“It’s kind of sad knowing that some of them won’t live long enough to see the fruit of their labours.” Tristan reflected sadly.
“That is what the future is – it is filled with uncertainties, but full of hope and promise.” Lucien explained to them.
Just when the last child boarded the ship, a large clock sounded striking twelve. The giant ship pulled away from its harbour and sailed into the night sky. The old man with the hour glass turned and saw Tristan and Michelle. He opened his mouth to say something, but seeing Lucien he closed it and bowed his head in reverence instead.
“Time to go,” Lucien said and with those words a swirl of gold dust encircled them and transported the three of them out of there.

Chapter 19 – The Sad Parting

“Where are we now?” Michelle asked Lucien.
They looked at their surroundings and saw a familiar room: the table where they ate their meals, the bed revealed from the open doors of their bedrooms, the birdcage hanging from the ceiling holding Tristan’s pigeon.
“We’re home?” Tristan could not believe his eyes.
“But we’re not done our quest!” Michelle protested, “We still have not found the blue bird!”
“No, not on our journey,” Lucien agreed sadly.
“But that would mean we could not save the princess,” Michelle addressed.
“We still have time till Christmas day, don’t we?” Tristan asked hopefully.
Lucien only looked at them and led them to their house. Michelle threw her arms around Lucien, her shoulders shaking in tears.
“Michelle,” Lucien said to her tenderly.
“We failed our quest, Lucien!” Michelle sobbed, “We were asked by Madam Luna to find the bird of happiness for the princess and we failed!”
Lucien held her close and comforted her. “The quest is not quite over yet, dear one,” he told her.
“It’s not?”
Lucien shook his head and said, “Do not lose hope. You will find your blue bird.”
“How can you be so sure?” Tristan asked.
Their guide looked at him. “Remember what the Blessings have told you and you will know. Now, it is time for us to return to our worlds.”
“Will we see each other again?” asked Michelle as fresh tears appeared.
“We will. In time we will.” Upon those words, Lucien shone brightly until the place was washed white with his brightness.

Tristan opened his eyes and found himself back in home in his own bed. The place was still dark, but he recognized the scent and touch of his own bedclothes and home.
“I wonder what day it is,” he said to himself as he got out of bed. He approached Michelle who slept in her bed across from him separated by a thick curtain. He pulled back the curtain and found her sleeping soundly in her bed.
He let out a sigh of relief. They were home. So was it all a dream? Bringing out a candle he kept near his bed, he lit it. Climbing down the step ladder that separated them from the main level of their parent’s cottage, he silently made his way to his pigeon which he kept in its cage not far from the hearth.
The bird tucked its head under its wing. Tristan stared at his bird. Madam Luna had mentioned about the princess needing the blue bird. He lit a lantern and had a better look at his bird.
Whether it was the trick of the light, Tristan noticed that his pigeon looked bluer than it did before. He stood there in thought for a moment. Then he went back to his bed and changed his clothes. Grabbing his thick woolen coat he pulled it on. He then took his pigeon still in its birdcage; taking a thick shawl he covered the cage to keep the cold at bay. With his covered cage in one hand, he very quietly left his home after blowing out the lantern and candle on his way out.
He went to the barn, saddled their horse Greta and headed straight for the castle.
By the time Tristan arrived at the castle gates, day was beginning to break.
“Who goes there!” commanded one of the guards.
Tristan halted his horse and dismounted. “Please, sir, I would like to see the king.”
“What business do you have with the king this Christmas morning?” the second guard demanded.
“So it’s Christmas morning,” Tristan said, his face lit up with hope, “Please give this to the king. It is the blue bird for the princess.” He handed the cage to the first guard.
“Wait a minute! Did you just say a blue bird?” the second guard asked.
“Yes, I did,” he told them.
The guards whispered at each other. They peeked under the shawl and turned to Tristan.
“We’ll make sure to give it to her majesty,” the first guard told him.
“Thank you,” Tristan nodded, he stopped and asked, “Will the princess be all right now?”
“Now that we have the blue bird she will be,” the second guard assured.
Tristan nodded in gratitude. He mounted Greta and made his way back home.

Chapter 20 – As For the Blue Bird

“We’re home!” Pierre’s voice rang in the quiet home.
“Really, Pierre! They may still be asleep!” Jolie playfully smacked her husband’s arm.
In their rooms located on the second level further into their cottage, Michelle stirred in her bed at the jovial noise.
“It’s Christmas morning!” Pierre’s cheerful voice filled the air.
“Father!” Michelle leapt out of bed, scrambled down the stepladder and ran into the arms of her parents. “You’re home!” she cried out in delight.
“Well! This is a lovely Christmas greeting!” Pierre said with a chuckle. “Merry Christmas, Michelle!” he said as he kissed the top of his daughter’s head.
“Where’s Tristan? Is he still in bed?” Jolie asked as she gave her daughter a hug.
“I’m right here.” Everyone turned to see Tristan come into the cottage, fully dressed and his face red from the chilly air. He was glowing.
“I did it, Michelle! I was able to give the princess her cure on time!” he told his sister.
Michelle looked at her brother with a confused look. “What do you mean?”
“I found the blue bird. The Blessings were right; it was in our house the whole time.”
“They were right? You mean you found the blue bird? Oh, Tristan! I am so glad!” Michelle cried out in joy as she hugged her brother.
“What is going on here now?” Jolie asked her husband.
“Beats me, but if our children are happy then I guess all is well.” Pierre commented.
Tristan turned to his parents and stared at their faces. He turned to his mother and kissed her cheek and stared at her again.
“Um, yes?” their mother asked, looking puzzled.
“Just glad to see you, Mother,” Tristan told her as he put his arms around her.
“Well, I am glad to see you too, my son,” Jolie said with a smile unsure of what to make of this greeting.
“Well, let’s have breakfast ready, shall we?” Pierre said, as he removed his now wet coat.
“Yes, let’s! Michelle, get changed. We shall have a feast!” Their mother produced a large basket filled with wonderful gifts: little jars filled with jams and jellies, a loaf of bread, a wheel of cheese, a string of sausage, some apples, a bag of nuts and dried fruits, and finally a sugary cake wrapped in a tea cloth.
“Where did all this come from?” Michelle asked.
“You will not believe it, but it was left at the door of your grandparents’ cottage,” Jolie told them.
“Who would have left them?”
Tristan saw a sheet of paper wedged into the side of the basket, tied to a tin of tea with a sprig of pine with its cone. The paper was crisp with a shade of cream, on its pristine surface, in elegant script, were the words: Thank you for your kindness. Bérylune.
“What is it, Tristan?” his sister asked, as she leaned over his shoulder to see what he had in his hand.
“I believe the gifts were from Madam Luna,” Tristan said as he showed the letter to his family.
“Oh, she didn’t have to thank us!” Jolie protested.
“I think she still wanted to show us her gratitude,” Tristan explained.

Days passed and the news of the princess recovering from her mysterious illness was spread throughout the kingdom along with the news that the prince had returned safely after his long absence from his quest. Thus the people of Berlingot had the assumption that the prince found the cure and sent it ahead to his sister to speed her recovery.
“So where did you find the blue bird, Tristan?” Michelle asked her brother as they were cleaning Greta’s stable.
“I told you, it was in our home the whole time.” Tristan added new straw.
“Surely you don’t mean your pigeon.”
“I am talking about my pigeon,” Tristan brought Greta to her stall.
“Oh, Tristan! But I thought – ”
“I thought so too. I thought that the bird was not blue enough, but when I looked that early Christmas morning it was much bluer than before, so it had to be the one.”
“But that pigeon was special!”
“It was, which was all the more reason I had to give it away; if it will bring happiness to someone I was more than willing to let that person have it. Besides,” he added as he gave Greta a carrot, “I don’t need that pigeon anymore now that I could visit Grandfather in my memories.”
Michelle stared at her brother.
“What?” he asked, noticing a touched look on his sister’s face. “Why are you so emotional?”
“Oh, Tristan! I am so proud to have you as my brother!” she wept with joy as she threw her arms around her brother’s neck.
“Hey! Careful!” he protested, but was smiling the whole time.
“Tristan! Michelle!” their father called them, “You have visitors!”
“Visitors?” Michelle asked.
“Who could they be?” Tristan wondered aloud.
Their mother met them as they came out of the stable.
“Hurry, go wash up!” she shooed them to the water pump in the kitchen.
“What’s all the fuss about?” Tristan asked.
“Don’t keep them waiting! They’re already here!”
The brother and sister quickly washed up and straightened their clothes; both strode towards the front of the cottage where they saw a grand carriage with a royal crest on the door.
“Tristan!” Michelle grasped her brother’s sleeve.
“Your highnesses, allow me to introduce you to my children. My son Tristan and my daughter Michelle,” Pierre introduced them both to a regal looking pair.
The guests were also brother and sister, or so they appeared. The young man was tall and beautiful with hair fluffy and snowy white; his skin was smooth and dark as walnut; his eyes were almond shaped and the colour of amber.
His sister was just as beautiful, about Michelle’s age with smooth ivory skin, shiny black hair that flowed in silky waves about her shoulders, her lips were the colour of rose petals in the summer, and her dark amber coloured eyes were bright as stars. In her hands she held a pigeon the colour of the sky.
“Tristan, they look familiar. I wonder why?” Michelle whispered.
“You’re right, but I can’t seem to recall where I’ve seen them,” Tristan whispered back.
“Tristan,” said the young woman.
“Y-yes?” he jumped.
“I am Princess Jana,” she introduced, “I was told by the guards that you brought the blue bird to the castle.”
“I did, your highness,” Tristan said nervously.
“Thank you, Tristan,” the princess said with a smile, “I wanted to visit you sooner and thank you for your generosity.”
“It was nothing, your highness,” Tristan said, his face as red a beets.
Michelle giggled as she watched her brother’s reaction. She looked up and saw that the prince was looking right at her. He smiled.
“Excuse me, your highness, but have we met?” she asked.
“Perhaps we have, but not like this,” he said with a wink.
The princess handed the blue bird back to Tristan, but it broke away from her grasp and took flight.
“Oh no!” The princess watched the bird fly away.

“It is all right, your highness. We will find the blue bird again – this time close to our hearts.”

Happiness (A retelling of Maurice Maeterlinck's “The Blue Bird”) - Chapter 16 and 17

Chapter 16 – True Happiness

“So what was that place I found myself in?” Tristan asked as they once again took the path along the steep cliff.
“You were at the House of Luxuries,” Lucien told him.
“That was what I was told, but what are they really?”
“What did they tell you they were?”
“They say that they live like that. I guess they mean they live in luxury. What I want to know is why all that disappeared?”
“The Luxuries believe that happiness is found in material things such as food, drink and riches. What some do not realize, and some try to ignore, is that happiness do not come from having material things. Having material things only give temporary happiness which is fleeting, but also very deceptive because it never fills the emptiness that actually meant for true happiness. So the Luxuries drown and bury themselves in material things trying to fill a bottomless hole in their hearts, not realizing that those were the very things that were chasing away their true happiness.”
Tristan listened and thought over what happened to him there. He shuddered.
“Is something wrong?” Michelle asked.
“Lucien, one more question,” Tristan asked, “What would have happened if I did end up joining the party, ate their food or had their drink?”
“You would have forgotten.”
“The food and drink the luxuries served had toxic qualities. It makes one crave for those things, but never fills them. After each taking it only make the emptiness worse, so you would only think about the next meal they serve you or the next drink or the next thing you could have. You would forget the important things in life: the love you share with your family, friends and loved ones.” Lucien looked up and stopped. “We have arrived.”
They all looked around it was a vast empty field under an open sky. The field was green with grass and speckled with wildflowers.
“So where are we now?” Tristan asked.
“We are at a place called Blessings.” Lucien explained.
“Are we supposed to see something here?” Michelle asked.
“Turn the diamond, Tristan, and take a look.”
Tristan turned the diamond, its facets sparkled revealing children playing in the field. Many children of various shapes, colours and sizes laughed and played in the field gathering flowers, playing tag or just lay in the grass staring up into the blue sky – a dressed in gowns of pastel colours.
“Hey! It’s Tristan and Michelle!” one of them shouted.
At the mention of the visitor’s names, they all ran up to them, some of them brought circlets of flowers and placed them on their heads.
“Welcome to Blessings!” the children greeted.
“It’s so nice to see you!” said a little black cherub boy in mint green.
“We always talk about you and how your family make us want to dance,” said a brown girl in pale orange and yellow.
“We love to hear your family talk!” said a little boy with golden hair and blue eyes dressed in sky blue.
“How do you know our names?” Michelle asked bewildered.
The children stopped and then burst out laughing.
“What’s so funny?” Tristan asked.
“We always see you!” said a girl with almond eyes and black haired bob, she wore a pink dress.
“We see you every day!” said olive skinned girl with green eyes wearing a pale yellow dress.
“You just can’t see us because we are invisible,” explained another boy with earthen coloured skin, his hair tied back in a cue. He wore a pale brown gown.
“We are looking for the blue bird,” Tristan said. “Do you know where we could find one?”
The children giggled.
A little black girl in a lavender dress stepped forward and said, “We see one in your house every day. Right, everyone?”
The children nodded.
Tristan and Michelle looked at each other even more puzzled.
“You see one in our house?” Tristan asked.
“Are you talking about Tristan’s pigeon?” Michelle inquired.
“Nope!” the children chorused.
“There’s a real blue bird in your house,” said the little boy in the mint green.
“We saw it singing when your family shared a funny story,” said the girl in the pale yellow.
“It even flew around the house in joy when you discovered your father came home safe from a violent storm,” explained the girl in pink.
“Look! There’s someone you would like to meet!” The boy in tan suddenly grabbed Michelle’s hand.
“Yes! Do see her! She and others would love to see you!” The girl in lavender tugged Tristan’s arm.
“Come on! Come on!” the children twittered excitedly leading the older two further into the field.
“Now who do we have here?” said a sweet voice.
Tristan and Michelle looked and saw the mother Jolie smiling at them.

Chapter 17 – The Loves

“Mother?” both Tristan and Michelle asked in unison.
“But,” Tristan heard himself say, “You look like our mother, but you aren’t. The mother we know is much older than you.”
“You are right in saying that I am not your mother,” said Jolie’s look-alike. “I am Storgé.”
“Storgé?” Michelle asked.
“It means ‘love of parents and children’. I am one of the loves you find in your lives.” Storgé explained.
“Madam, can I give you a hug?” Michelle asked, “You look so much like my mother I just realized how much I missed her.”
Storgé held out her arms and Michelle fell into them. The moment they embraced Storgé’s face grew younger and prettier. Tristan gaped at what he saw.
“What’s the matter, Tristan?” Michelle asked, noticing the look on her brother’s face.
“She just – changed! She grew younger and…and prettier (not that she wasn’t before, but became more so).”
Storgé giggled. “So you see how love worked. When you show affection it brings out beauty in the one you give that affection to. In my case, your love for your mother makes her younger just as your expression of affection made me younger.”
“Do you have any left for me?” asked a deep voice.
“Father!” Michelle exclaimed.
“Hello, Michelle!” smiled Pierre.
“Are you like Storgé?” Tristan asked.
“You are right in asking so. I am Philia, ‘affectionate regard and friendship between equals’,” explained the Pierre look-alike.
“Don’t forget me!” A young girl suddenly appeared from behind Philia. She looked about the same age as Michelle and was stunningly beautiful. Her hair were wild coils of blazing copper, her eyes were bright blue-green like lake waters.
“I’m Eros! I represent intimate love. I also represent appreciation for beauty itself or beauty in the person one sees.” The girl gave a flirty wink at Tristan.
He blushed and looked away.
Eros giggled at his shy reaction.
“And we must never forget Agapé,” said Eros, prancing over to Lucien.
“But, that’s Lucien,” Michelle pointed out.
“You call him Lucien, but he is Agapé himself.” Philia explained, “He represents the ultimate love including brotherly love, charity, the love God has for man and the love man has for God.”
Michelle stared at Lucien puzzled. Lucien only smiled.
“What are you, Lucien?” she asked in wonder.
“Someone who is always there for you, my dear one,” he said with a knowing wink.
After they rested and enjoyed the company of the Blessings and Loves, the companions left the field.
“They said they saw the blue bird in our house, but I don’t remember seeing any.” Tristan reflected.

“I was thinking the same thing.” Michelle pondered, “Could it be that the bird was invisible as the Blessings were?”